As the newest Champion in the fight against malaria, actress and humanitarian Serinda Swan recently joined a delegation from the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign to visit Kakuma Refugee Camp to distribute insecticide-treated bed nets to refugees. The trip was tied to Nothing But Nets’ nationwide appeal to send 100,000 bed nets to refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan.
Since last June, more than 130,000 refugees — and counting — have entered South Sudan and neighboring countries to escape fighting in the region. 75,000 more are expected this year. As the situation worsens, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is providing food, water, and shelter. In a country where malaria is the leading cause of death among children under five, refugee families in South Sudan also need life-saving bed nets.
The diverse group, which included UN Foundation Vice President Elizabeth Gore and Nothing But Nets Director Chris Helfrich, met with UNHCR and other officials and camp leaders. The delegation also visited a school, a hospital, a vocational training center, and a computer learning center. Swan met mothers and children, sat with children suffering from malaria and malnutrition, and listened to their stories.
“Meeting these refugee mothers and children was humbling and inspiring,” Swan said. “Their patience, strength, and grace in the toughest circumstances are incredible. These families deserve to sleep safely at night, and everything we can do to help, like delivering life-saving bed nets, matters.”
“This experience visiting Kakuma Refugee Camp with the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign is just the beginning of my support for this important cause,” Swan said. “I am thrilled to lend my voice to the movement to end malaria. We’ve got amazing momentum — we can eliminate malaria deaths in this generation.”
Kakuma Refugee Camp, about 75 miles from the South Sudan border, has seen an influx of families from South Sudan. Kakuma is home to more than 94,000 people, one-third of whom are from South Sudan. As the rainy season approaches, the risk for malaria in the camp grows, worsened by poor drainage and standing water — prime breeding grounds for deadly mosquitoes. Last year, about one-fifth of the people living in Kakuma had malaria.
Every 60 seconds, a child dies of malaria. Yet progress is being made against the disease, thanks to hundreds of thousands of supporters joining the movement against malaria. In five years, malaria has dropped from the leading cause of death among refugees to number five. With bed nets and other low-cost solutions, 11 African countries have cut malaria rates in half in less than three years.
In addition to her support of Nothing But Nets, Swan is a founding ambassador for Friends to Mankind, which works to connect people with good causes worldwide. She has cycled across Cambodia and skydived to raise awareness about child sex-trafficking. Swan stars in the A&E series “Breakout Kings,” and was featured in the show “Smallville,” and the films Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and TRON: Legacy. She recently finished shooting a feature film, The Baytown Outlaws, co-starring Eva Longoria and Billy Bob Thornton. Swan launched her big-screen acting career in 2009 in the romantic comedy The Break-Up Artist.
Joining Swan in Kakuma were Nothing But Nets friends and supporters Brian Gott, publisher of Variety, and his wife Audra Gott; Tim Gray, Variety editor in chief; tech entrepreneur Ryan Allis; photographer Michael Muller; and Bryant Barr, Director of the BUZZKILL Foundation, which supports Nothing But Nets.
The world’s newest country, South Sudan is roughly the size of Texas, and families escaping the fighting are moving into safer zones, away from the violence concentrated near the border. More than 130,000 refugees have fled fighting on the border of Sudan and South Sudan since last June; observers expect 75,000 more this year. Malaria is a leading cause of death among refugees and the number one cause of death in South Sudan among children under five—bed nets are an easy, cost-effective tool to keep families safe.
To date, Nothing But Nets has raised more than $40 million to distribute more than 6 million insecticide-treated nets to families throughout Africa. To learn more, visit www.NothingButNets.net
About Nothing But Nets
Nothing But Nets is a global, grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. Inspired by sports columnist Rick Reilly, hundreds of thousands of people have joined the campaign that was created by the United Nations Foundation in 2006. Campaign partners include the National Basketball Association’s NBA Cares, The people of The United Methodist Church, and Major League Soccer’s MLS W.O.R.K.S. It only costs $10 to provide an insecticide-treated bed net that can prevent this deadly disease. Visit www.NothingButNets.net to send a net and save a life.
About The United Nations Foundation
The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by global corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals. For more information, visit www.unfoundation.org.